Features & Columns

Balaji Hindu Temple in Alviso

A new Hindu temple rises in the nearby yet remote and removed town of Alviso
A TOWN APART: The Alviso train station, circa 1882, was oneof the remoter stops on the valley's transportation lines.

By now, many South Bay locals know that Alviso occupies a space underneath the radar, existing right where high-tech Silicon Valley concludes and where the San Francisco Bay fades into the salt flats.

A disregarded specimen from eons past, Alviso is a neighborhood outside of time. In fact, the entire Western linear concept of time is irrelevant in Alviso, so much that even the buses won't go there in the daytime.

Now, however, a grand collaboration between East and West, an epic transnational congress of two cultures, a visionary transfer of energy, has emerged, unparalleled in its visionary scope. At least for Alviso, I mean.

Right across Tony P. Santos Street from the elementary school, in the old house formerly owned and occupied by the Santos family, one now finds a Hindu place of worship in its initial stages. Construction for the Balaji Temple is underway, and the grand-opening ceremony went down just over one month ago. The facility is a spiritual nonprofit Hindu Temple dedicated to sharing the universal truth of the Vedas and the Upanishads of India.

The house itself originally existed near the San Jose airport, near Coleman, on the frontage road that branched off from Highway 880, which was then part of Highway 17. The home was originally slotted for destruction in lieu of airport expansion when Tony P. Santos purchased it in 1959. Most of the old family homes in Alviso are move-ons, transplants, so Santos transported the building it to its current location at 5004 N. First St.

Historically, the Santos family is the grand royal bloodline of Alviso, undiluted by anyone. The family originally came to Alviso from Portugal via Hawaii. Sixty years ago, Tony P. Santos was simultaneously mayor and chief of police. His brother had also been chief and his father had previously operated the levees and the city dump. The family owned most of the land and essentially ran the whole damn town.

Santos passed away in 2004 and a street was then named after him. His son, also named Tony, grew up in the family house, beginning in 1960. He still lives in Alviso, manages an RV storage facility and stages classic-car shows.

The next generation appears in the form of a third Tony, the hero that currently owns and operates Lunch With Tony, a simple restaurant with cheap gourmet food. I recommend the breakfast burrito.

After Tony P. Santos, the grandfather, passed away, the family put the home up for sale. Balaji Matha, a nonprofit spiritual organization, wanted to build a Hindu Temple and Vedic Cultural Center where people can come together to study and worship, regardless of background. They jumped at the opportunity to purchase the former Santos family home. So far, the community has welcomed them.

The current elder Tony gave me the lowdown on the new Hindu temple. Rather than treating them like exotic intruders from the East, Santos says the community has accepted the temple, and the temple has already proved it respects the community very much. There is no revenge for the Portuguese colonizing India 500 years ago.

"What more would you want to have right next to a school then a religious facility?" Santos told me. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a very welcome site in our community. To me, it's an honor having something religious where my parents lived. I really like that. Not that my parents were over-religious, but I think it's wonderful."

The architecture of the temple features all the turrets and swirling imagery one would expect. Construction is still taking place, but the temple is open for worship. Santos says the building blends in perfectly.

"They did a remarkable job," he said. "Usually when you have a small area like this, developers come in, they want to make money and leave you with all the problems. [The temple] came in, they spent their money, and they're here to stay. They've done everything first-class."

In Alviso, time does not have a beginning, middle or an end. Instead, the Hindu concept of time makes more sense. Time is relative, eternal and cyclical. May East and West continue to merge and may Alviso continue to be timeless.